Great Moments in Strat – July 2015

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The Season When All the Records Were Broken
            I have finally finished my Steroid Era replay. It was an incredible regular season, with amazing individual performances and dramatic pennant races. Three of the divisions and one wild card race went down to the very end. I needed a Game 163 to decide two of the races.
            As I said in previous Great Moments posts, I mixed up three seasons, 1999, 2000 and 2001, using the best card for each hitter and the worst card for each pitcher. As expected, there was plenty of offensive carnage. Indeed, purists would cringe at what happened. My 2,432 games saw a breathtaking 9,613 homers, a whopping 3.95 per game! The MLB batting average was .321, and the MLB ERA was 7.27. Every team bashed at least 242 long balls (The Giants led the way with 427), and all but 1 team batted at least .300 (The Rockies, as one would expect, were tops at .356). Barry Bonds, using his 2001 card, hit a monstrous 120 dingers, Mark McGwire followed up his 70-homer 1998 season with 95 more to come in 2nd. Six players hit at least 80, nine had at least 70, and 15 had 60 or more.
            Other incredible feats included six players batting at least .400 (Led by Todd Helton’s .437), Craig Biggio’s 80 doubles, Darin Erstad’s 307 hits (including a whopping 81-game hitting streak!) and Luis Castillo’s 154 stolen bases (stolen bases shot up as well). Every team scored at least 1,088 runs, led by the Rockies, with 1,503. On the pitching side, Kevin Brown led the way with a 4.28 ERA, with Pedro Martinez not far off, at 4.31. Only four pitchers with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title had an ERA below 5. No team finished below 6.31.
            As for the pennant races, fans were treated to an incredible finish to the season. In the AL East, the Orioles and Blue Jays had to play 163 games to decide the champion, with the Orioles winning the final game on a crazy comeback in the 9th inning, sending them to the playoffs. In the AL Central, the Indians rode a balanced offensive attack (with every regular batting at least .310) to the best record in baseball, at 97-65. The Royals broke their playoff drought, 15 years before they would in real life, by barely holding off the Blue Jays and Red Sox for the AL wild card. In the AL West, the Mariners and A’s went down to the final game of the season, with the M’s taking down the A’s in Oakland to claim the division title. Two real-life AL division winners, the Yankees and Rangers, tumbled below .500 in the replay, as 3/4 of the AL playoff field changed.
            As for the NL, there was just as much craziness. In the NL East, the Braves needed until the final weekend to clinch, holding off the Mets. In the NL Central, it remained super close till the final week. As the division-winning Reds and the 4th-place Astros were separated by only 7 games. On another note, the Pirates broke their losing season streak 14 years early, finishing 82-80, good for second place in the division. The NL West may have been the craziest of all. The tops three teams were separated by 1 1/2 games. The Giants won the division on the final full day of the season, setting the stage for an epic wild card showdown between the Diamondbacks and Padres. The two teams, with wildly contrasting styles (The Diamondbacks had great power, with four 50-homer guys, while the Padres featured breathtaking speed, stealing a record 453 stolen bases), went into a final four-game series tied, and ended up splitting the series, setting up one more showdown, in Arizona, for game 163. That game went down to the bottom of the 9th, and was decided by a walkoff 3-run homer by Matt Williams, off of Trevor Hoffman, to send the 2nd-year Diamondbacks to the postseason. What a perfect way to conclude the regular season.
            This season has been a blast to play, I look forward to seeing what the playoffs have in store.
Donald Gordon, Montclair, CA
            Here are the final standings and leaders:
NEWSPAPER STYLE RECAP FOR 1999 American League         Date: 10/5/1999
1999 BAA    92 71         E.Martine SEA .420         K.Griffey SEA  85     M.Ramirez CLA 233
1999 TOA   91 72         D.Erstad ANA .410         M.Quinn   KCA 82   K.Griffey SEA 211
1999 BOA   89 73         A.Rodrigu SEA .404        A.Rodrigu SEA  80    J.Thome   CLA 197
1999 NYA   78 84         N.Garciap BOA .393       J.Thome   CLA  70    F.Thomas CHA 194
1999 TBA    62 100       M.Sweeney KCA .391      F.Thomas CHA  68   M.Sweeney KCA 189
1999 CLA    97 65    WINS                    SAVES                    ERA
1999 KCA   92 70    P.Martine BOA  20    J.Montgom KCA 39   P.Martine BOA 4.31
1999 CHA   74 88    D.Wells   TOA  19   T.Jones   DEA  37     A.Pettitt NYA 5.46
1999 DEA   68 94    M.Mussina BAA  16   M.Timlin BAA  35     J.Rosado KCA 5.48
1999 MNA   64 98    B.Colon   CLA  16    K.Foulke CHA 35     G.Meche   SEA 5.50
                         OTHERS TIED W  15    D.Lowe    BOA 34    D.Wells   TOA 5.52
1999 SEA    87 75
1999 TEA   79 83    E.Martine SEA   55      T.Goodwin TEA 123  P.Martine BOA 325
1999 ANA  74 88    M.Sweeney KCA  17    T.Walker MNA   73   M.Mussina BAA 203
                             T.Zeile   TEA      17    R.Durham CHA   66   A.Sele    TEA 194
                             T.Houston CLA   16    B.Hunter SEA   62      F.Garcia SEA 188
                             N.Garciap BOA  15    OTHERS TIED W 61  E.Milton MNA 174
NEWSPAPER STYLE RECAP FOR 1999 National League                 Date: 10/5/1999
1999 ATN    92 70          T.Helton CON .437           B.Bonds SFN 120          T.Helton CON 252
1999 NYN    88 74          L.Walker CON .427          M.McGwire SLN  95      B.Bonds SFN 245
1999 PHN    85 77          B.Bonds   SFN .401            S.Sosa CHN  87            S.Sosa  CHN 229
1999 MON   74 88          L.Castill FLN .377              G.Hill CHN  73            M.McGwire SLN 203
1999 FLN     69 93          S.Casey   CIN .374             L.Gonzale ARN 70       L.Gonzale ARN 196
1999 CIN   85 77    WINS                SAVES                     ERA
1999 PIN   82 80    R.Johnson ARN  22   T.Hoffman SDN 40          K.Brown   LAN 4.28
1999 CHN 79 83    T.Glavine ATN 21     J.Rocker ATN 39            R.Johnson ARN 4.54
1999 HON 78 84    K.Benson PIN  17     D.Graves CIN 38            J.Smoltz ATN 4.97
1999 SLN   68 94    S.Hitchco SDN 17     R.Aguiler CHN 36          T.Glavine ATN 5.14
1999 MLN  66 96    K.Rueter SFN  17     OTHERS TIED W 33       K.Benson PIN 5.40
1999 ARN  92 71    J.Vidro   MON  34          L.Castill FLN 154            R.Johnson ARN 341
1999 SDN  91 72    P.Nevin   SDN  20          E.Young LAN 111          K.Brown   LAN 245
1999 CON 83 79    J.Kent    SFN  17            Q.Veras SDN 96            R.Wolf    PHN 211
1999 LAN  75 87    OTHERS TIED W 16      T.Womack ARN 91        R.Dempste FLN 202
                                                                R.Cedeno NYN 86         OTHERS TIED W 196
Short and Sweet
            I recently completed an eight team mini-season (21 games, cards and dice) with the top four teams making the playoffs.  The Great 8 in order of finish and with a quick season synapse were:
1)  1995 Cleveland Indians  (14-7)  Me being a lifelong Tribe fan, I was quite pleased with this result.  The Wahoos were either in first or tied for first the entire way.  Albert Belle put on an incredible display of power with 20 HRs in 21 games.
2)  1997 Atlanta Braves (12-9)  Finished up by going 7-2.  They made it to my last two tournaments’ World Series, winning one and losing one.   One tournament was a 128 team monster (best of 7 all the way) and one was a World Cup style with group play (3 game series) then knockout stage (best of 7).
3)  1969 Baltimore Orioles  (11-10)  One of my personal favorites.  They had to win their last series against the ’98 Yanks just to get to the playoff.  Mission accomplished.
4)  1975 Cincinnati Reds (11-10)  The Machine started off hot and progressively cooled as the season went on, getting swept in their final three-game set against the Tribe to end the season 5-1, 6-0, 13-5.  Not a good way to head to the playoffs.
5)  1998 New York Yankees (10-11)  Their future was in their hands.  All they had to do was win their season ending series against the ’69 O’s and they were in.  Mission not accomplished.  Historically for me, they haven’t quite been able to get over the hump, though they did make it to five consecutive Final Four’s in big tournaments leading up to this mini-season.  Making it to only one World Series, which they lost to the ’97 Braves.
6)  1986 New York Mets (10-11) They won their first series 2-1, then lost the next five series 1-2.  They could only take solace in never being swept in a series.  I barely even noticed they were playing.
7)  2001 Seattle Mariners (10-11) Surprising!  The M’s were tied for first with the Tribe at 9-6, then lost five of their last six to drop right out of contention.  I predicted they would finish first during the season.  Oops!
8)  2004 St. Louis Cardinals (7-14)  The Cards are who we thought they were.  They came out of the gate with a blistering 1-8 record, though they did go 6-6 the rest of the way to save a little face.  They were out of contention way too early for only a 21 game season.  In this SOM universe, this team has drastically underachieved.  Not just in this season, but in just about every tournament and mini-season I’ve ever had them in.  
Playoffs (losses in parenthesis)
1995 CLE over 1975 CIN   8-6, (0-1), 2-1, 9-8, 16-4 
After this series, the Tribe has won 7 of 8 against the Machine.  The Reds needed a 1-0 shutout hurled by Clay Carroll just to get that one win.  Game 4 was the back breaker for the Reds, even though the Tribe tried to give it away with a Vizquel error directly leading to three runs in the bottom of the 6th.  Trailing 8-6, the Indians came right back in the top of the 7th with three runs of their own to go up 9-8.  Mesa was shaky in the 9th for Cleveland, but Sandy Alomar bailed him out by cutting down two would be base stealers at second (Concepcion and Morgan).  With the Tribe up three games to one, the Machine’s fate was sealed and they just went through the motions in game five losing 16-4.
1997 ATL over 1969 BAL  6-5, 5-2, 7-5, 9-4
The most drama occurred in game one when the O’s went up 5-4 after scoring four runs in the top of the ninth, but Javy Lopez crushed their dreams with a 2-run walk off HR.  After that, the Braves never trailed again for the rest of the series.  It wasn’t the Braves pitching that beat the O’s down, it was sufficient, but it was the timely hitting and 11 HRs that pushed them over the top.  This makes it the ’97 Braves 3rd straight World Series appearance in my last three tournaments.
World Series
1995 CLE over 1997 ATL 12-1, (2-7), 9-3, 7-4, (3-5), 3-1
The first five games really lacked drama, they were all solid victories with no lead changes or any real threats.  Then came Game 6.  Albert Belle gives the Tribe the lead in the bottom of the 2nd with a solo HR.  Then the Braves Javy Lopez ties it up in the top of the 4th with a solo shot of his own.  The Tribe’s Eddie Murray responds immediately in the bottom of the 4th with a 2-run HR.  The game has no more scoring headed to the top of the 9th with the Indians up 3-1.  It was decided to bring in Jose Mesa for the save and as usual, it was heart-attack-city.  With men on 2nd and 3rd and 2 outs good ol’ Joe Table (Mesa) gets the big K and the Tribe wins the World Series!  My Indians are Champions!

Jeff, from Utah (originally from Cleveland)